Even though St. Pat's was the home team and higher seed going into Wednesday's second round matchup against Blue Hill, many considered the Irish to be the underdog against the No. 3 state ranked Bobcats.But in the few times St. Pat's has been an underdog, they have performed well and Wednesday's 28-18 win over Blue Hill was the latest to prove that true.
"I am real proud of our kids," said St. Pat's coach Kevin Dodson. "This was one of those games we were counted out. But our kids worked real hard. They responded well (when they had to) and they played hard. It's hard to measure the amount of heart they have."
Blue Hill (8-2) struck first when quarterback Jason Poe hit wide receiver Mitchell Ruybalid on a slant over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown about six minutes into the game.
The Bobcats led 6-0 as Ruybalid missed the extra point as he slipped on the grass that had been blanketed by snow on Tuesday.
That was a point that Blue Hill kept chasing all game long.
St. Pat's (9-1) established itself late in the first quarter when Collin Pieper recovered a fumble by Poe at the Bobcat 16 yard line.
The Irish powered the ball toward the goal against a large Blue Hill front line. On fourth and goal from the one, Pieper scored on a pitch to the right side. Drew McClellen booted the extra point and St. Pat's had a 7-6 lead.
Blue Hill answered back on a two-yard touchdown run by Keithen Drury with just over six minutes left in the first half. The drive was set up by a pass interference penalty against a Irish defender who was covering Ruybalid. The penalty was assessed on a third and 21 with Blue Hill still in their own territory.
But the Bobcats couldn't get the two-point conversion as Poe's pass to Jayden Hamel went incomplete and the score was 12-7.
A little more than two minutes later, on fourth and eight from the Bobcat 30, Pieper caught a pass from quarterback Alex Harms for a touchdown to give St. Pat's the lead for good. McClellen's routine extra point made it 14-12.
No matter what the opponent's record or ranking, whenever St. Pat's has gotten a lead the last four years, the Irish have almost always held it. The Irish are tough to beat when they have momentum.
Dodson said the touchdown from Harms to Pieper give his team a big boost.
"Anytime you can put points on the board before half, it is good," he said.
St. Pat's received the ball to start the second half and added to the lead with a three-yard touchdown run by Pieper to make it a two-possession game at 21-12.
Blue Hill came back and scored again from fourth and goal at the eight on a touchdown pass from Poe to Ruybalid. The Bobcats again failed a two-point conversion and the score was 21-18 with just under four minutes left in the third quarter.
But by the time Blue Hill got within striking distance on the scoreboard, the Irish were starting to really get going with their power rushing attack.
With just 2:46 left in the game, Pieper closed out a lengthy drive that took up much of the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run that make the score 28-18.
"We made some adjustments and I think we had a little more success running in the second half," Dodson said.
The Bobcats had to respond quickly. But an injury to Ruybalid reduced him to a mere decoy in the fourth quarter and Blue Hill was stuck in the mud. On fourth down deep in its own territory, Poe's pass fell incomplete and St. Pat's took over on downs.
The Irish didn't even have to score. They ran out the rest of the time to make the Class C2 quarterfinals for the fourth straight year.
The Irish will be playing at No. 1-ranked Doniphan-Trumbull on Tuesday in the quarterfinals. Last year, in the same playoff round and on the same field, the Cardinals beat St. Pat's 35-6. Doniphan-Trumbull's running back Jordan Slough rushing for over 200 yards.
Doniphan-Trumbull, with Slough leading the way, has run roughshod over all opponents this year. But Dodson said that if anything, the Irish are thrilled to have a rematch.
"What a great opportunity our kids have to play the number one team in the state," he said. "We're excited."
Score by quarters
Blue Hill: 6 6 6 0 - 18
St. Pat's: 0 14 7 7 - 28
First Quarter: BH-Mitchell Ruybalid 28 pass from Jason Poe (kick failed), 5:49.
Second Quarter: SP-Collin Pieper 1 run (Drew McClellen kick), 10:37. BH-Keithen Drury 2 run (conversion failed), 6:18. SP-Pieper 30 pass from Alex Harms (McClellen kick), 3:59.
Third Quarter: SP-Pieper 3 run (McClellen kick), 8:13. BH-Ruybalid 18 pass from Poe (conversion failed), 3:55.
Fourth Quarter: Pieper 2 run (McClellen kick), 2:46.